Roquan Smith - Signed through 2022 - If Roquan keeps playing at a high level, picking up the 5th-year option for the 2022 season will be a no-brainer, but there have been some odd occurrences that at least have to give the Bears some pause before they do that. He had the initial contract hold out after being drafted, then there was an unexplained absence early in the 2019 season, he suffered a torn pec in the week 14 game which landed him on injured reserve, then in December he was involved in a single car accident on some icy roads in Lake Forest. When looked at individually, none of these are really that big a deal, but collectively it has to make Bears management think about their long term investment in the soon to be 23-year old Smith.
Of course, a huge 2020 will erase any negative vibes that are surrounding Roquan, and he definitely has the talent to do just that. He racked up 100 tackles in just 12 games a year ago and his speed, athleticism and football IQ should make him a triple digit tackler every single year he plays in Chicago.
But his running-mate for 2020 at inside linebacker is up in the air with the next three players on the depth chart free agents.
Nick Kwiatkoski - Free agent - Kwiatkoski played in all 16 games with 8 starts, and it seems like the game has slowed down for him. His issues in coverage seen to have gone away, yet his physicality remains a plus to his game. He’s due a significant raise from his rookie contract so the Bears will need to decide who they want next to Roquan for the next few years.
Danny Trevathan -
Free agent Signed through 2022 - Trevathan has been damn good during his Bears career, but he’s only played in all 16 games once in his four years in Chicago. There has been injuries, a suspension, and with him about to turn 30-years old, the team has to weigh his upside vs. his contract demands. (EDIT: Trevathan was re-signed by the Bears)
Kevin Pierre-Louis - Free agent - I was pleasantly surprised with the play from KLP. He was a good special teamer (except for that one running into the punter play) and when called on to play defense he raised his game. He had 5 special teams tackles while playing in 66% of the third phase, and he had 32 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 QB hits, 3 passes defended and an interception in only 5 games with significant reps on defense (including the final 3 starts of the season). He’s 28-years old, but with relatively low miles, so the Bears should be able to get him back at a decent price.
Josh Woods - Signed through 2020 - Woods played in 148 special teams snaps (35%) for the Bears a year ago and the former UDFA safety will try to stick as a back up again this offseason.
Joel Iyiegbuniwe - Signed through 2021 - Iggy hasn’t been able to crack the lineup on defense since the Bears drafted him in the 4th-round in 2018, but he’s been a core special teamer the last two years.
Devante Bond -
Restricted free agent Signed through 2020 - He was brought in to help with special teams down the stretch and he has some pass rush skills for outside linebacker. (EDIT: The Bears resigned him on Saturday, February 22)
2020 OUTLOOK - I think the Bears are gong to let Trevathan and Kwiatkoski set their market in free agency before making either an offer. If Kwit can come in around $5 million a season I think he returns to Chicago, but if it’s higher than that I think the Bears let him walk and fall back to Trevathan. As for Pierre-Louis, I think the Bears would like him back as the number 3 ILB, but if they can’t get Kwiatkoski or Trevathan back, then they’ll be comfortable giving him a shot next to Roquan.
If by chance they lose all three to free agency then they may look to the NFL Draft, and our own Jacob Infante sees Penn State’s Cameron Brown as a nice day three option.
Brown is a physical specimen for the linebacker position, as he blends size with speed and great fluidity and range for the linebacker position. He’s raw, but the Bears would be wise to look at him in Round 5 or later.
Getting a developmental inside linebacker to groom for a year didn’t work out very good with Iggy, but one player has nothing to do with the other. The 6’5” Brown would be an intriguing option at ILB as he has the size to cover move tight ends down the seam.
What do you think the Bears are going to do at inside linebacker in 2020?